Westbrook, Thunder Excited About Contract Extension
Two days after announcing the signing of guard Russell Westbrook to a multi-year contract extension, the Thunder commemorated the agreement with a press conference Sunday in the building where it all started for both the team and the player.
Westbrook sat between General Manager Sam Presti and Head Coach Scott Brooks on a stage set up at the Thunder Community Events Center, presented by INTEGRIS Health, looking at a large audience that included Thunder chairman Clayton I. Bennett, Westbrook's family, Thunder Season Ticket Members, Thunder employees, and children and parents from the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Thunder Youth Basketball League.
When the Thunder established its roots in Oklahoma City in 2008, Westbrook was one of the first players to don the team’s jersey, sport its logo and represent not only the city, but the franchise on and off the court. On Sunday, he was ecstatic to announce his desire to stay with the Thunder.
“This is the spot that I wanted to be,” he said. “The organization believed in me. … From day one, this organization supported me, the fans, the people around me, my teammates, my family, just everybody I know around me supported me from day one and definitely gave me confidence that this is where I wanted to be.”
Since being selected fourth overall in the 2008 NBA Draft, Westbrook is one of only five players in NBA history to record 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds through three NBA seasons. Chris Paul, LeBron James, Anfernee Hardaway and Oscar Robertson are the other players to accomplish that feat. In addition, by averaging 21.9 points and 8.2 assists last season, Westbrook became just the fifth player ever to average 21-plus points and 8-plus assists in a season. It is the manner in which he plays -- the heart, determination and willingness to work -- that impresses Brooks the most.
“How can you not love this guy?” Brooks said. “The guy plays with so much passion, he plays with toughness, he plays for the team and he’s improved every month since we’ve had him. I like the fact that he wants to be coached, he understands that he is not a finished product. His family has done a great job of instilling that work ethic in him and he comes to work every day.”
Westbrook’s success on the NBA level, which also includes a Western Conference Finals appearance and a division title, is matched only by his success on the collegiate and international level. Westbrook was a member of two Final Four teams at UCLA and won a Gold Medal with Team USA at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey. As he and the rest of the Thunder continue to grow together, his knack for making his teams successful will only continue to help the Thunder work toward its goals.
“I think it’s safe to say that he impacts winning and he plays an impact position,” Presti said. “So those things are incredibly important as are things we value tremendously.”
In a point guard-driven league like the NBA, having an elite point guard like Westbrook as a part of a committed, deep nucleus will allow the Thunder to mature together as it continues to thrive in an environment that fosters great teamwork and kinship. Westbrook was excited by the notion that he will get to keep playing alongside Kevin Durant and his other teammates for years to come.
“It’s great,” Westbrook said. “Why wouldn’t you want to play with the best scorer, maybe the best player in the league on your team? I’m blessed to have Kevin, Serge (Ibaka), James (Harden), my whole team standing by my side.”
Westbrook’s love for his teammates and excitement to stay with the Thunder was evident. The Thunder is just as thrilled to have a person like Westbrook in its locker room. In fact, Presti commented on Westbrook’s sense of humor and the positive impact it has on his teammates. Brooks echoed the sentiment that Westbrook is not only a great player, but an even better person to have as a part of the Thunder family.
“He’s a great kid,” Brooks said. “He really believes in the spirit of competition. He enjoys doing what he does. He has an incredible impact on our team. He has an amazing impact in our community. … He’s a fun-loving guy, but on the court he is very tough. He’s not looking to make any friends on the court, he understands that this is a game, this is a game that we all love and we want to get better at. His teammates really appreciate what he brings to the team.”